Sunday marks scorching MLS season finale: Decision Day presented by AT&T
It all comes down to the wire this Sunday on Decision Day presented by AT&T, when the most intense, pressure-filled, final 90 minutes of the regular season feature all 24 teams in action during 12 simultaneous matchups. With much to determine, here’s what is on the line on the last day of the regular season:
Making the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs
The final two spots are up for grabs among the four remaining Western Conference contenders: No. 6 Portland Timbers (46 points), No. 7 FC Dallas (45 points), No. 8 San Jose Earthquakes (44 points), and No. 9 Colorado Rapids (42 points). While the Rapids have surged to a 5-1 record over their past six games, they have the 21st-ranked defense out of 24 teams and have allowed nearly double the average goals per game than their higher seeded rivals. In contrast, the top Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs teams with the strongest defenses have allowed the fewest goals.
Gaining home-field advantage
Playing at home will be huge for the teams already qualified for the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs since on average Eastern Conference teams were 9-4-4 at home and 4-9-3 on the road, while Western Conference teams were 7-5-4 at home and 4-8-4 away. The top seeds in each conference proved the true power of homefield advantage by achieving at least 11 home wins and only one loss on their own turf, as the disparity to road woes was real with only three teams – the Los Angeles Football Club, New York City FC and D.C. United – producing away records at or above .500. Heading into the final week, only a single point is separating the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds from hosting at home, as the New York Red Bulls are chasing down D.C. United in the East and Real Salt Lake are challenging to overtake the LA Galaxy in the West. With road wins increasingly hard to come by, solidifying home-field advantage becomes even more essential.
Will Vela or Ibra strike most for Golden Boot presented by Audi?
The tantalizing two-man race between LA’s finest will be decided this week, as Carlos Vela’s single-season, record-tying 31 goals in 30 games remains within reach of Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimović’s 29 goals in 28 games. With one match remaining, it could go either way.
LAFC could complete dream season with new record
During LAFC’s stellar 2019 regular season campaign, the club is maintaining the pace to potentially surpass the MLS single-season record of 71 points, which was set by the New York Red Bulls last year. Approaching their final game with 69 points, a win breaks that record.
Vela, Ibrahimović set sights on Golden Boot presented by Audi, goalscoring record
Two of the most prolific scorers in MLS annals have history on the line Sunday in MLS Decision Day presented by AT&T action, as Carlos Vela and Zlatan Ibrahimović battle it out for the MLS single-season goalscoring record. The MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi will be awarded to whichever player finishes the season with a higher goal total, capping a regular season of the ages. After debating which player was the best in MLS earlier this season, the Golden Boot race could add more fuel to the fire between the intracity rivals.
Vela scored his 31st goal of the season on Sunday in LAFC’s 1-1 draw against Minnesota United FC, tying Josef Martínez ’s league record for goals scored in a season set last year. The Mexican international has scored in eight straight matches, the fourth-longest streak in MLS history. Should Vela score once again on Decision Day presented by AT&T, he’d become the MLS single-season goalscoring leader. LAFC hosts the Colorado Rapids at Banc of California Stadium on Sunday (4 p.m. ET, ESPN+).
Ibrahimović meanwhile has scored in four straight matches and has 29 goals on the season, the third most in MLS history behind Vela and Martínez. Trailing the Golden Boot race by two goals, Ibrahimović would need a hat trick to overtake Vela, as he trails the Mexican in the first tiebreaker (assists) by a 15-7 margin. With eight multi-goal matches this season, including two hat tricks, the Swede is certainly capable of putting pressure on Vela on Decision Day. The LA Galaxy will face the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Stadium on Sunday (4 p.m. ET, ESPN+).
Regardless of the outcome, Vela and Ibrahimović have had historically productive seasons, ranking along the global elite of the top six goalscorers in the world among the likes of Lionel Messi (36 goals) and Kylian Mbappé (33 goals).
Timbers, Quakes clash for final West spots in Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs
The urgency of MLS Decision Day presented by AT&T will be at max volume in the Western Conference matchup between the No. 6 Portland Timbers and No. 8 San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday (4 p.m. ET, ESPN / ESPN Deportes). The sixth and seventh postseason positions are the final qualifying spots remaining – Portland (13-13-7, 46 points) controls its fate, while San Jose (13-15-5, 44 points) is currently below the playoff line.
A victory or draw propels the 2018 MLS Cup runner-up Portland into a third straight postseason, capping off a challenging regular-season road that included 12 consecutive away matches to start 2019 before the reopening of Providence Park. During this current stretch, the Timbers have climbed up from 10th to sixth place in the West, in prime position for the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs.
The Quakes are eager to halt their five-game losing streak, and a victory Sunday would put them into the postseason. MLS all-time goalscoring leader Chris Wondolowski (158 career goals) has once again been the prime attacking option under first-year head coach Matias Almeyda, and if the Quakes find their 14th victory in 2019, it would mark 10 wins more than they accrued in all of 2018.
Which comeback plot will prevail on Sunday?
Wondo, Rimando and Vela among 2019 MLS record-breakers
As the 2019 MLS regular season draws to a close on Sunday with MLS Decision Day presented by AT&T, a number of players and clubs have had record-breaking seasons. Among the highlights include Carlos Vela and LAFC breaking numerous records, Josef Martínez and Maxi Moralez elevating to new heights, and Chris Wondolowski and Nick Rimando further cementing themselves as two of the most heralded players in MLS history:
LAFC and Carlos Vela raise the bar
Carlos Vela tied the MLS single-season goalscoring mark this past Sunday with his 31st goal of the season, a mark that could fall should the Mexican international score against the Colorado Rapids in MLS Decision Day presented by AT&T action on Sunday. LAFC could also set numerous team records with a strong performance on Sunday, as a victory would give the club (currently at 69 points) a new MLS record for points in the season over the 2018 New York Red Bulls (71 points). The club would also need to score four goals in its finale to break the 1998 LA Galaxy squad (85 goals) for goals scored in a season, as LAFC currently sits at 82 goals. With a goal differential at plus-46, LAFC is also on pace to break the ’98 Galaxy record of a plus-41 goal differential.
Chris Wondolowski sets MLS career goalscoring mark
Chris Wondolowski officially became the most prolific scorer in MLS history when breaking the league career goals mark on May 18 in typical Wondo fashion with a four-goal performance. Now with 158 goals scored, Wondolowski continues to pile onto his goalscoring record, while also setting the MLS mark with 44 game-winning goals in his career. Wondolowski’s 10 straight seasons with 10 or more goals is also an MLS record.
Nick Rimando caps record-setting career
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando played his final regular season match in front of the Real Salt Lake faithful on Sunday following a 20-year MLS career including 13 seasons in Salt Lake City. The 40-year-old Rimando will retire with several MLS records including most games played (513), wins (222), and shutouts (153). Rimando will lead RSL into his final regular season match ever on Sunday when facing Vancouver Whitecaps FC (4 p.m. ET, ESPN+ /TSN1) before heading into the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Josef Martínez scores in 15 straight matches
Reigning Landon Donovan MLS MVP Josef Martínez set an MLS record this season when scoring in 15 consecutive matches stretching from May 24 through September 18. The 15 consecutive goals with a game ranks second in global soccer since the launch of MLS behind Lionel Messi. With 26 goals this season, the 26-year-old Atlanta United forward now has 76 goals in his regular season MLS career, the most ever for any player in league history over a three-year period.
Maxi Moralez could set post-shootout era assist mark
NYCFC midfielder Maxi Moralez became only the third player in MLS history to record 20 or more assists in an MLS season following his performance on Sept. 25 against Atlanta United. With another assist on Sunday, Moralez would pass Sacha Kljestan for the most assists in an MLS season in the post-shootout era, and the second most ever behind Carlos Valderrama’s 26 assists in the 2000 season.
MLS Regular Season: Week 31 Notes
Sunday, Oct. 6
Atlanta United vs. New England Revolution, 4 p.m. ET
- Atlanta United completed the road portion of their 2019 regular season with a draw, reaching a 1-1 result with the Montréal Impact at Stade Saputo on Sunday afternoon. Julian Gressel netted his fifth goal of the season.
- The Revolution claimed the final available spot in the Eastern Conference for the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs, defeating New York City FC 2-0 at Gillette Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Gustavo Bou netted his ninth goal of the season – in his 13th MLS appearance – to cap the Revolution’s return to the postseason for the first time in four years.
- The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Ezequiel Barco scored goals on either side of halftime, leading Atlanta United to a 2-0 win on April 13 at Gillette Stadium. Atlanta United have never lost to the Revolution in their history, with three victories and two draws all-time.
- ATLUTD have won both previous meetings at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a 2-1 win last Oct. 6, and 7-0 victory on Sept. 13, 2017, in a match that equaled the all-time MLS margin of victory, the most goals ever scored in a single game by an expansion team. The win at Gillette Stadium was the first after two draws.
FC Dallas vs. Sporting Kansas City, 4 p.m. ET
- FC Dallas saw their two-game run of draws put to an end, falling 3-0 to the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Sunday afternoon.
- Sporting KC snapped a four-game losing slide, reaching a 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday afternoon. Krisztian Németh scored his eighth goal of the season, and Daniel Salloí netted his first of the year.
- The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Dominique Badji scored in the first half and Jesús Ferreira in the second, as FCD claimed a 2-0 win on July 20 at Children’s Mercy Park.
- Sporting won on their last visit to Toyota Stadium, a 3-0 win last Oct. 21, their first in Frisco, Texas, since 2011; FC Dallas had a five-game home undefeated streak in the series put to an end.
- FCD has won the past two meetings in Kansas City, its first there since 2011, the first match there in the series. SKC had won five of the seven meetings in between, with two draws.
D.C. United vs. FC Cincinnati, 4 p.m. ET
- D.C. United extended their undefeated run – all by shutout – in a scoreless draw with the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena on Sunday afternoon. United have recorded four consecutive shutouts for the first time in the club’s 24-year history, the club’s shutout streak now at 414 minutes, dating back to Aug. 31.
- FC Cincinnati reached a second consecutive draw, playing to a 1-1 result with Orlando City SC at Nippert Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Allan Cruz netted his seventh goal of the season for the FCC goal.
- The teams are meeting for the second time this season, and the second time in their histories. Lucas Rodríguez scored a pair of goals and set up another, and Wayne Rooney had a goal and an assist, as D.C. United eased to a 4-1 win on July 18 at Nippert Stadium.
Houston Dynamo vs. LA Galaxy, 4 p.m. ET
- The Dynamo suffered a second consecutive reversal, falling 2-1 to Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Tomás Martínez netted his fifth goal of the season.
- The Galaxy had their three-game winning run snapped in dramatic fashion, falling to a late 4-3 defeat by Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Dignity Health Sports Park. Zlatan Ibrahimović netted his 29th goal of the season, a fourth consecutive game with a goal (with six goals in that span), and also added an assist for a third consecutive game.
- The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Ibrahimović netted the opener and Diego Polenta converted a late penalty kick for the match-winner, giving the Galaxy a 2-1 victory on April 19 at Dignity Health Sports Park.
- The win in the first meeting ended a four-game Dynamo undefeated streak in the series, the last Galaxy win coming on Oct. 16, 2016, a 1-0 win at BBVA Stadium.
- The Dynamo won the last meeting between the teams in Carson, Calif., a 3-2 victory on Decision Day last year, their first at the Galaxy since 2013. The Galaxy had won two of the four meetings in between, with two draws.
Los Angeles Football Club vs. Colorado Rapids, 4 p.m. ET
- LAFC extended its undefeated streak to five matches, reaching a 1-1 draw with Minnesota United FC at Allianz Field on Sunday afternoon. Carlos Vela equaled the MLS single-season goalscoring record with his 31st goal of the season, tying the mark established by Atlanta United’s Josef Martínez a season ago, scoring in a fourth game in a row.
- The Rapids stayed alive in the chase for a place in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs, winning a second consecutive game in a 3-0 defeat of FC Dallas at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Jack Price netted his first goal of the season to send the Rapids on their way, while Kei Kamara netted his 13th goal of the season, the 125th of his MLS league career.
- The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Danny Wilson scored the game’s only goal on 49 minutes, giving the Rapids the victory on June 28 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
- The teams met twice in LAFC’s inaugural season, and the expansion club won both, without conceding a goal. LAFC took a 2-0 win on Aug. 19 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, then claimed a 3-0 victory on Oct. 6 at Banc of California Stadium.
Montreal Impact vs. New York Red Bulls, 4 p.m. ET (TVA Sports, TSN5)
- The Impact put an end to a three-game losing skid, playing to a 1-1 draw with Atlanta United at Stade Saputo on Sunday afternoon. Bojan Krkic scored his second MLS goal for the Impact tally.
- The Red Bulls extended their undefeated run to three games, playing to a scoreless draw with D.C. United at Red Bull Arena. Luis Robles backstopped the Red Bulls’ third consecutive shutout, their streak now at 270 minutes since the last goal conceded.
- The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Goals a quarter-hour apart from Zakaria Diallo and Maximiliano Urruti midway through the second half overcame an early Aaron Long goal, giving the Impact the 2-1 win on May 8 at Red Bull Arena.
- The win in the first meeting was the Impact’s first in 10 regular season meetings at Red Bull Arena, though the Impact did win there in the 2016 Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Impact have won the past three league meetings in Montréal, last a 3-0 victory at Stade Saputo last Sept. 1.
Orlando City SC vs. Chicago Fire, 4 p.m. ET
- Orlando City SC concluded their road portion of the season with a third draw in four games, reaching a 1-1 result with FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Benji Michel scored his fourth goal of the season for OCSC, as Nani added his 10th assist.
- The Fire extended their undefeated streak to four games with a third draw in that span, reaching a 2-2 result with Toronto FC at SeatGeek Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Aleksandar Katai and Fabian Herbers scored goals, as Nicolás Gaítan added his 12th assist of the season.
- The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Dom Dwyer gave Orlando City the lead early in the second half, but CJ Sapong netted the leveler in stoppage time, leaving the teams in a 1-1 draw on March 9 at SeatGeek Stadium.
- The Fire now have a seven-game undefeated streak in the series, over the past four seasons. Orlando City’s last win vs. Chicago came Sept. 19, 2015, a 1-0 win at Bridgeview, Ill.; the Fire have won three meetings since, with four draws.
Philadelphia Union vs. New York City FC, 4 p.m. ET
- The Union concluded a three-game road swing to end their road portion of the 2019 season, suffering a 2-0 loss to Columbus Crew SC at Mapfre Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
- New York City FC saw their nine-game undefeated run put to an end, falling 2-0 to the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
- The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Maximiliano Moralez converted a pair of penalty kicks on either side of halftime, then set up a brace from Valentin Castellanos seven minutes apart, as NYCFC stormed back for a 4-2 win on June 29 at Yankee Stadium.
- The Union won last year’s meeting at Talen Energy Stadium, a 2-0 victory on Aug. 18, their last win in four meetings in league and MLS Cup play. NYCFC have won the last four meetings in the Bronx, including a 3-1 win a year ago when the clubs met on Decision Day.
- The teams also met last year in the Knockout Round just three days after the regular-season finale, with NYCFC cruising to a 3-1 victory at Yankee Stadium.
Portland Timbers vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)
- The Timbers reached a third consecutive draw, playing to a 2-2 result with Sporting Kansas City at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday afternoon. Dairon Asprilla converted a late penalty kick for the Timbers’ equalizer for his first goal of the season.
- The Quakes had their losing slide extended, falling to a late goal in a 1-0 defeat by Seattle Sounders FC at Avaya Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
- The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Shea Salinas, Danny Hoesen and Cristian Espinoza scored goals in the opening 34 minutes, leading the Quakes to a 3-0 win on April 6 at Avaya Stadium.
- The Timbers have never lost to the Quakes at home in their MLS history. The Timbers have won eight of 11 meetings between the teams in Portland (with three draws), including the past six meetings there. The away team has won just twice in the all-time league series, last a Timbers win May 5, 2018, in San Jose.
Seattle Sounders FC vs. Minnesota United FC, 4 p.m. ET
- Jordan Morris netted the game’s only goal deep in stoppage time, giving Sounders FC the victory against the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
- Minnesota United FC extended their undefeated run to four games, reaching a 1-1 result with the Los Angeles Football Club at Allianz Field on Sunday afternoon. Michael Boxall scored the MNUFC goal, his second of the season.
- The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Ike Opara gave Minnesota United a first-half lead, but Cristian Roldan leveled for Sounders FC just before the halftime interval, leaving the teams in a 1-1 draw on May 4 at Allianz Field.
- Sounders FC won the first four meetings between the teams all-time, with an 11-3 advantage in goals. Seattle has won both matchups at CenturyLink Field, including a 3-1 win last April 22 in the last meeting there.
Toronto FC vs. Columbus Crew SC, 4 p.m. ET (TSN4)
- Toronto FC stretched their league undefeated run to nine games, dating back to Aug. 10, reaching a 2-2 draw with the Chicago Fire at SeatGeek Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Jozy Altidore scored his 11th goal of the season, while Omar Gonzalez netted his first for TFC.
- Crew SC extended their undefeated streak to five matches, defeating the Philadelphia Union 2-0 at Mapfre Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Pedro Santos scored his 11th goal of the season to cap the victory, after Youness Mokhtar scored his first goal in MLS.
- The teams are meeting for the second time this season. David Accam had looked to have given Crew SC a win with an 82nd-minute goal, but Altidore hit for the equalizer in the 90th minute – after earlier setting up a tying goal from Jonathan Osorio – leaving the teams in a 2-2 deadlock Aug. 17 at Mapfre Stadium.
- Crew SC took the last meeting at BMO Field, a 2-0 win in the 2018 league season opener for both teams. The Columbus win ended a two-game TFC winning streak at BMO Field in the series, the opening goal the first scored by Crew SC in 404 minutes in Toronto over all competitions.
- TFC has come away with points on its past three trips to Columbus, a 2-1 victory on May 10, 2017, its first win in Columbus since 2014, snapping a four-game Crew SC home undefeated streak there in the series in league play (2-0-2).
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Real Salt Lake, 4 p.m. ET (TSN1)
- Whitecaps FC extended their undefeated streak to three games with a second win in that time, defeating the LA Galaxy 4-3 at Dignity Health Sports Park on Sunday afternoon. Tosaint Ricketts and Michaell Chirinos each netted their first goals of the season, Chirinos with the game-winner late into stoppage time.
- Real secured their berth in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs, getting a late Jefferson Savarino goal to claim a 2-1 win against the Houston Dynamo at Rio Tinto Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Corey Baird sent RSL on their way after just 35 seconds, the second-fastest goal scored in the club’s history.
- The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Albert Rusnák converted a penalty kick for the game’s lone goal after 21 minutes, giving Real the win March 9 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
- The ‘Caps have won the past six meetings at BC Place, dating back to 2014. RSL has won the past four meetings at Rio Tinto Stadium. Each of the last three seasons the teams have split their two meetings, each with a home victory.